Photo Credit: Photo by Holger Woizick
On This Day In History: St. Kitts And Nevis Wins Independence From Britain
September 19, 2022 marks the 39th anniversary of the independence of St. Kitts and Nevis. Locals commemorate this day with plenty of celebrating.
But there’s more to it than parties in the streets. St. Kitts Tourism notes, “Independence Day serves to ensure that the nation’s citizens never forget their past — and how far they’ve come to arrive at this point.”
The history of St. Kitts and Nevis has the same hallmarks of other Caribbean islands. Columbus originally called St. Kitts St. Christopher, after his patron saint. Long before it became the first of Britain’s colonies in the West Indies in 1623, it was inhabited by the Carib people. Because of this, some call it the mother colony of the West Indies.
The French battled Britain for control of St. Kitts and Nevis, resulting in the massacre of the Carib people. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris brought the islands firmly under British control. Never the kind to pass up an opportunity to exploit, Britain forced enslaved persons from West Africa to work the sugarcane plantations on both islands. Sugar was the chief export for St. Kitts, and for a time, it was Britain’s richest colony.
After centuries of being in the crossfire between Britain and France, a new era was about to start for St. Kitts and Nevis. The U.S. Department of State writes, “St. Kitts and Nevis, together with Anguilla, became a self-governing state in association with Great Britain in 1967.”
Actual independence arrived in 1983, and the first prime minister was Kennedy Simmonds, who stayed in office until 1995.
People from St. Kitts are “Kittians” and people from St. Nevis are “Nevisians.” The capital of the first is Basseterre, where you’ll find the government buildings and chief port, and Charlestown is the capital of Nevis.
The local dialect combines West African, French and English elements. Those familiar with Trinidadian Creole or Jamaican Patois will notice the aural similarities. In casual speech, a Kittian or Nevisian would say, “I tell she,” instead of “I tell her,” or “I told her. Overlap of past and present is common.
Most of the people are of African descent and several generations may live in the same household. The favorite sport is cricket, but soccer and horse racing also have a following. The food is both rich and flavorful, reflecting the numerous cultures that shaped these islands. Conch fritters, pelau and roti are just three of the popular delicacies.
St. Kitts Tourism explains what typically happens on Independence Day.
“True to its jubilant nature, the day’s events are spontaneous, changing on a yearly basis. The one constant is Basseterre’s military parade. The prime minister delivers an annual speech before kicking off a procession of uniformed personnel and marching bands. The parade is part of a two-day community festival. Other events, including calypso shows, colorful dance processions, youth concerts, and more fill the schedule. With its vibrancy, it’s as if Carnival came early.”
Happy Independence Day, St. Kitts and Nevis!